James Figg is a name so quintessentially and intrinsically linked with the art of face punching that just typing his name increases your risk of premature arthritis by 80%.
All in all, it is commonly accepted that Mr Figg, or “Sir,” as he was presumably known to everyone within fist distance, or “fistance,” fought in some 270 fights–a number which you’ll recognize as around 200 more times than most modern boxers would stand in front of someone trying to drill their face into the pavement. Which is where we’d like to point out that James Figg was a bare-knuckle boxer. As in, he punched and was punched by people with nothing more than a thin layer of sweat and the gravity field projected by his own balls to protect him from the blows aimed right at his swede.
Though the date of his birth is debatable depending on which source you decide to place your faith in (1695 according to the Encyclopedia Britannica and 1684 according to Google, so yeah, choose your poison with that one), there is one thing that all agree on. By 1719 James Figg was the bare knuckle boxing champion of England and was taking all comers. Where did he take them? Usually to a doctor.
Once a month Figg would allow anyone to challenge him to a fight in front of hundreds of spectators at his local pub (because where else would a real man punch people in the dome?). When he wasn’t punching people in the face for money, he’d be training other people to do exactly that. By other people we of course mean landed gentry, since apparently, back in those days, even nobility appreciated the sweet bitter sting of a fist meeting someone’s jaw.
When he wasn’t utterly dominating people in alcohol-fueled fits of hand throwing, Figg was also a renowned fencer, wrestler and wang salesmen (since he fathered “many children“). Man, we should probably be happy that this guy never became aware of the Kama Sutra since we suspect if he had done he would have easily been able to kill a man with any of his limbs instead of just most of them.
But let us just go back to those 270 fights he took part in, how many of these do you think Figg won? Bearing in mind that he was probably in his late 40s for half of them. Well if you said anything other than 269 of them you’d be dead wrong and now have the ghost of a man fueled only by the desire to kill everything with his bare hands annoyed at you. Yep, in 270 fights, Figg only lost a single one, to his own student.
However, since Figg was a 6′ tall, 185-lb. slab of beef with eyebrows and the ability to massage your prostrate with a well placed uppercut to your chin, he wasn’t going to stand for anyone besting him in combat, even someone he taught. Now it was rumoured that Figg was deathly ill during his one and only loss, though said rumour was never proven true, Figg did turn his former student’s face into a raw meat when they had a rematch. Which either proved that Figg was ill or purposely lost that one match to stop God killing him, and making him his personal bodyguard before he had a chance to punch everyone in England.
When Figg finally did die the legacy of his many years of asskicking, face punching kidney tenderizing was immortalized in print across the land and he was given an obituary so badass scientists actually suspect it was written by a time-travelling Bruce Dickinson for a new Iron Maiden album. To quote:
“Last Saturday there was a Trial of Skill between the unconquered Hero, Death, on the one side and till then the unconquered Hero, Mr James Figg, the famous Prize-Fighter and Master of the Noble Science of Defence on the other. The Battle was most obstinately fought on both sides, but at last the former obtained an Entire Victory and the latter tho’ he was obliged to submit to a Superior Foe yet fearless and with Disdain he retired and that Evening expired at his house in Oxford Road.”
Why humanity didn’t just stop writing then and there and made that paragraph required reading for everyone is a mystery to us, because we’ll be honest, those sentences are pretty much the peak of what humanity should be aspiring to become.
So the next time you watch boxing on TV or boot up a copy of Fight Night, spare a thought for James Figg, a guy who spent his entire life honing his body into a weapon so hard, people actually classed him as a worthy foe for the Grim Reaper himself.
Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.
For more badass athletes, read about the greatest wrestler of all time in Ass-Kicking Athletes of Antiquity: The Great Gama. Or learn about the boxer who was never once punched (nope, not ever): Melankomas.